Sorghum and Women

Sorghum is a women's crop in Africa. To a large extent, they are its planters, cultivators, and harvesters. Through the accumulated wisdom of centuries, women have amassed information about the crop and its handling. Many are expert in distinguishing closely related varieties . . . a knowledge which men—even professional scientists—seldom attain. Only now, however, are researchers beginning to pay attention to this knowledge.

Joyce Kanyangwa is one of those. Working under the auspices of Texas Tech University, she traveled to three sorghum-growing areas of Lesotho, visiting selected households to gain a perspective on attitudes about the use of sorghum. ''I was interested in finding out what might be done to expand the use of sorghum in the diet to give women more income for their labor, as well as a cheaper staple for their tables," she explains.

Her research indicates that improving sorghum use can do much to help Africa's women. "Sorghum is a woman's crop, but the market for the product is limited primarily to brewing beer for men," she notes.

Better processing methods are particularly needed. The processing and cooking of sorghum and millet takes more time than rice. Women going to work, either in the fields or in the community, have less and less time available for processing and cooking. Small-scale rural sorghum and millet processing mills, like the rice mills already available in India, could help promote the consumption of sorghum and millet.

"When sorghum is processed using a special machine, people like it," Kanyangwa says. "I'm optimistic that the crop has the potential for helping female-headed households feed their families better and for helping women make more money."

The introduction of suitable dehullers and flour mills will:

  • Reduce the drudgery of women in the sorghum eating areas.

  • Convert sorghum into a much more convenient grain.

  • Improve the quality of sorghum products.

  • Check the tendency of shifting from sorghum to other grains.

  • Help develop composite flours and commercialize sorghum products.

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